Mar 23, 2010

Peace Cometh

"Change is never easy, you fight to hold on, and you fight to let go"...

Letting go can be one of the hardest things you'll ever have to do, but it can also be one of the most necessary things you'll ever need to do. We all have situations in our lives that may be holding an invisible question mark over our heads. Maybe it's something so terribly important to you that you're blinded to the truth; not realizing that all that may stand between you and the answer could be the tight grip of fear. If you are not able to see the forrest for the trees, all you have to do is ask yourself, "Do I have peace in this situation?".

It's amazing how life can come full circle as you begin to see how every event in your life is connected. Not necessarily in a step-by-step pattern. Sometimes a current situation can trigger a lesson learned long ago. Sometimes those situations can be totally unrelated to each other.

Last year, around this time, I had to make a decision to leave a place I dearly loved, which was one of the most, if not the most difficult decision in my life. Surely, God would never ask me to leave! He of course, as He so often does, reminded me in no uncertain terms, that HE is the one in charge and not me. Feeling so torn, I sought out many avenues that I believed would help lead to an answer. I spoke with close friends, had countless discussions with my Reverend (which inspired a ministry series on the Will of God!), and spent many nights praying and seeking God for an answer that was right in front of my face...literally. One month later, after much soul-searching and prayer, I was sitting in church one Sunday...I asked God one more time that His Will be revealed...we began a hymn...and wouldn't you know...the very next lyrics..."Come home, come home, All who are weary, Come home"...I had to laugh right there quietly joking to God, 'ok, I get it, I get it!'. Then, a magnificant and incredible peace flooded my entire soul in a way that cannot be described. There was absolutely no room left for doubt.

That is what we are looking for. That peace which comes when we know we have made the right decision. You will know that it is real because you will not doubt it for a second, all fretting will cease, and it will stay. His PEACE is to be found in every decision that must be made. If we are paying attention, we will know which is the way that leads to that peace.

Now one year later, I find myself in a similar situation. Once again a decision must be made. Once again doubt, fear, and uncertainty knock at the door. Once again, I have sought the opinions of others, as so many of us do (hey, we're only human!). Of course, all this really means is...I haven't learned my lesson!

It's so easy to forget what that initial experience with true peace looks like. Overtime, that knowledge fades with it's corresponding issue and, when caught off guard, we can revert back to that natural human tendency to feel as though we need to take back that control, believing it's all up to us. I am reminded of another recent experience in which closure was absolutely necessary. Three years of nothing, but uncertainty. I felt like I was in chains; torn between a need to be supportive and patient; and denying the realization that things that should not have been "okay", were becoming "okay"....until I finally realized that I could lay this at His feet, walk away, and trust that He would take care of it, either way. I had to give my loyalty to God BEFORE I gave my loyalty to man. And, Oh! The peace that followed! God was faithful and he covered my heart in the process. Not only did the peace come in such a supernatural way, but He protected my heart in the aftermath...bonus! Sheer proof that if you are faithful to Him, He will be faithful to you!

We just need to let go and let Him take care of it! All we really need to do is quiet ourselves...and stop and listen...and God will meet us there...and it is here that He will show us the way...and after that...if we are listening...Peace comes.

Mar 9, 2010

Sing out, Louise!

"Silence, I KEEL you!", I am not watching Ahmed the Terrorist. These were words which came from my vocal coach's talking bird (she once told me what kind it was...heck if I remember), right in the middle of a warm-up no less! Now lately it's been difficult enough for me to get into the spirit of things musically without a talking bird telling me to shut up. My vocal coach explains that he is just showing off his newly acquired vocabulary. Of course, now I'm laughing because the bird won't shut up. I find it quite ironic that a bird is basically telling me to zip it in the middle of a vocal lesson. Seriously, it's hysterical!

"Okay, come on now. Concentrate!", she teacher, not the bird.

I'll admit I've been purposely slacking at my lessons lately and my attitude has been pretty (for lack of a better word) sucky. Why? Well...I just haven't felt like it. I haven't felt like giving it "my all"....I figure I'll leave that up to Mariah Carey.

Warm up continues...and stops as she pulls out the dreaded mirror which I immediately greet with dramatic raspberries. The mirror is "punishment" and I hate it with a passion because now my crappy attitude is staring me in the face.

"Alright now watch what you're doing, open your mouth wider, sing OUT!", she says.

"I don't want to", I say stubbornly. Which of course is such an eloquent form of expression for a 29 year-old. Of course, my music teacher ain't buyin' it and she gives me a look that says without're too old for this nonsense.

But the truth is, I really just didn't want the time. She reminds me, "This is the only way you can see what you're doing wrong, so you can correct it". I agree reluctantly. I can be damn stubborn when I want to be and have any number of close friends who will tell you the same! What can I say?

So, we continue our lesson with my half-hearted attempts, until she stops again, takes her glasses off and stares at me intently.

"la, la, la, la, l-...what?", I'd been singing the scale until I realized she wasn't playing the piano anymore, but preparing no doubt to give me a good-natured lecture.

"Do you realize you're sabotaging yourself?", she asks. "You have this amazing gift and you're really holding back. Why are you so afraid of your own voice? I know what you're capable of, but you get in your own way. Do you realize how far you could go, if you would just get out of your own way? Because YOU are the only one standing in your way." That was the most valuable verbal kick in the ass I've had in a long time. Why do I do that?! Why do I purposely set myself up to fail? And I could say I don't realize when I do that, but I'd be lying. So, what is it that makes me feel like I need to sabotage something I once would have given my left elbow for? And I'm sure I'm not the only one. What is it that makes us abandon our talents, dreams, and aspirations?

It's simple. So, simple that it only requires one Life gets in the way. Things happen all around you everyday that cause your spirit to sag. Maybe you've lost your security or a love. Maybe someone has treated you cruely. Maybe no matter how hard you have tried to make that airplane fly, the wings fall off and the fuselage comes crashing to the ground. Maybe little negative comments here and there have slowly creeped into your soul and you start to believe them. Of course, this doesn't all happen at once and you may not even realize what is happening, but over time, these are all ingredients which lead to heart-smothering cocktail; shaken, not stirred. That once inpenetrable wall so strong and defiant against all odds, now crumbles in effect to the proverbial "acid-rain" which falls steadily over time.

And yet, that's no crutch to lean on, we still stand in our own ways. Even with the knowledge of how you have gotten to your own personal point at which you have now found yourself, it is your responsibility to go above and beyond your circumstances. It is a rare occurence where someone else comes along and turns your own gift into fruition with little to no effort on your part. You've got to take responsibility for yourself. You can't let "life" stop you from living out your potential.

What would you do if you knew you could not fail? Try out for that major league team? Move to a new city? Take that dream job? Start a business you've been dreaming of? Step into a new "right" relationship? But the key is you've got to use what you know you were given for that distinct purpose. Not your friend's purpose or your neighbor's or your co-worker's. You've got to dig deep inside of yourself and find whatever it is that your own personal "no-fail" may be and you cannot let the details of meaningless life circumstances stop you. You've got to own it!

"You are the only one standing in your way"...those were the greatest words my vocal coach has ever given me. Like my own personal "mirror" into my subconscious. So, now I have that responsibility to take ownership and use that knowledge wisely. You can take those broken things which were meant for destruction and turn them around, let them build character, and use them for a greater purpose. We cannot let the enemy take from us what God has ordained for us! Even when voices all around are giving their own version of, "Silence! I KEEL you!".

So, go! Stand up tall, live life the way you were meant to live it, and sing OUT!

Mar 1, 2010

Revelation - Getting My "Feisty" Back.

I've been stifled lately. Now, I know what you may be thinking..."but you've moved back to Ohio, where the air is crisp and clean!". No, no, not that kind of stifled. I mean I've been inhibited. Surpressing myself away for fear that people won't understand me. And now I've reached a point where I can't take it anymore. The straw that broke the camel's back? Someone very special, dear, and close to me in not-so-many words, telling me to withhold my feelings because, in the end they didn't matter because their feelings were more important...what??? Now for those of you who truly know me, I am not a meek person. I am not one to sit back and accept such total mind-screwing crap.

So, why did I accept this, not only from this person, but from other sadly misguided people as well? I was thinking being a Christian meant you hold back at all costs, even if it hurts you repeatedly. But that couldn't be further from the truth. God wants you to guard your heart, but he doesn't want you to lose your brain in the process. God made you who you are for a reason. Yes, He wants you to be more like Him, but He doesn't want you to turn to a mindless pile of mush. God intended for me to live my life the way as He created me, strong, couragious, and energetic! I was once that girl and I will will find her again.

After living in the crazy city of New York for 5 years, I moved back to Ohio last April; broken in every way. I never thought I would heal from the pain that I had experienced in the cold, concrete city. It all took on various forms, of course, but the cruelest manifestation of all was my hopes and dreams; everything I believed with every fiber of my being; dashed and scattered and the harder I tried to grasp for the pieces, the faster they fled away from me. A dear friend was gracious enough to invite me into her home and family to "reintroduce" me to my own hometown, which now seemed so foreign to me. I felt more like a fish out water than I'd ever been. I had to learn again what it was like to have a "normal" life from people all around me. I felt like people didn't understand me or would never understand what I'd been through. So, I hid it all away, including my own personality in the process, for fear that people would not be able to relate to me, or judge me or criticize; not having any understanding of what it was like themselves. Until I realized that I was hurting noone, but myself. I had been reading something a friend had said about me. This person hadn't seen me since before I moved to New York. One of her answers to a question asking her to describe me in one word was "FREE". I began to cry when I read it because I realized I wasn't that person anymore. Yes, I had a crazy life in New York, some good, some bad, some ugly, most you would think was straight out of a movie. I experienced great joys and lows and even some things I'm less than proud of. Although, I can safely and proudly say I kept my dignity through it all.

But the point is it was my life for 5 years. Those were my experiences, my struggles, my battle to survive in a city that is laughably not what they show on TV or in the movies. I can't hide those experiences as they are a crucial part to who I am as a person now.

So, I am going to be myself...fully...and ignore the pleas of those who try to make me feel that my opinions and feelings are not valid. When the honest and blunt truth is those very people have NO CLUE themselves. Can you really spend surface time with a person and say you know them well enough to blanket-label them? Not hardly! The people who know me and love me and have seen first-hand what has happened along this journey are the only people that have a right to form any kind of in depth opinion at all. My trust is in God who has covered me and continues to heal me from that lonely, broken, terrifying place. What a disservice it would be to the God who made me to be vocal, cause fighting, and charismatic woman that I am at heart to hold myself back for the fear that it will make other people feel insecure in themselves. Quite frankly, I'm getting pretty sick of it!

If we all took the time to evaluate ourselves IN CHRIST and realize who EACH OF US were made to be through Him individually, I gaurantee, we all would be a lot more comfortable with ourselves. God has made all of us to be unique in our own ways and if He wanted us all to be the same, He would have made us all the same. I don't strive to be like the next person. I strive to be that woman who in ultimate glory, is the woman that the Lord has made me to be through His Will! So, if that makes me "weird"...bring it.